Medical experts differ over what killed British tycoon in Nyali as inquest continues

Wednesday November 30 2016

Pathologist Andrew Gachie (left) testifies at

Pathologist Andrew Gachie (left) testifies at the Mombasa Law Courts on November 29, 2016 in an inquest into the death of British tycoon Harry Roy Veevers, who died mysteriously in 2013. Dr Gachie disagreed with Dr Moses Njue, who earlier said the tycoon died of poisoning. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By BRIAN OCHARO
More by this Author

Medical experts from the United Kingdom and Kenya have disagreed sharply on what exactly may have caused the death of British tycoon Harry Roy Veevers at his Nyali residence in Mombasa County about four years ago.

Dr Andrew Kanyi Gachie dismissed as untrue the findings by former chief government pathologist Moses Njue indicating that Mr Veevers died of poisoning from a pesticide.

“I totally disagree that the Briton died of poisoning. As far as I am concerned, the forensic analysis of the soft body tissues and the soil samples detected no substance. Going by the toxicology reports we have, the cause of death still remains uncertain,” Dr Gachie told Mombasa Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti.

Pointing at the gaps that existed in the already produced toxicology reports, he said the methodology used, procedures, equipment and quality control samples were not stated.

“It is a very shallow document. If I were to do a ranking, I would give it number five. In medical terms, this report is incomplete and can best be described as a one line statement,” he told the inquest into the tycoon’s death in Mombasa on Tuesday.

NO PROPER LAB TEST

Dr Gachie, who is also the head of the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Kenyatta National Hospital, said a proper forensic lab test was not done and so it was not possible for the pathologist to conclude that Mr Veevers had been poisoned.

On Tuesday, Dr Njue said the man died as a result of a poison that he had ingested from a pesticide known as cyhalothrin.

Dr Njue relied on a forensic analysis of the man's remains, which included soft body tissues and soil samples from the position of the stomach inside the grave.

He had told the court that he used wet soil samples taken from inside the grave at the stomach position and dry soil samples from the top of the grave (as the quality control) to make a conclusion based on the different results he had obtained.

According to Dr Njue, the pesticide, a highly toxic substance, was detected and that the only way it could have found its way into the stomach was through consumption.

NO SUBSTANCE DETECTED

Another forensic scientist, Dr Alexander Richard Allan from UK, who had analysed the same specimens about nine months after the body was exhumed, said no substance had been detected.

Dr Njue had dismissed Dr Allan’s findings, calling them contradictory, general and uncertified and hence inadmissible as evidence in a court of law.

But Dr Gachie concurred with Dr Allan that the forensic analysis of the specimens provided did not detect any traces of a pesticide, but criticised his report, saying it was shallow and lacked the essential ingredients required to certify them.

He said the discolouration of Mr Veevers' skin that the experts partly relied on to suggest that the man might have been poisoned is a “normal thing at death”.

“I wouldn’t say discolouration of the body is normal, but it is not unusual in death. It is part of the changes that might occur at death… though some poisons may cause skin rushes,” he said.

CONTRADICTORY FINDINGS

He said the findings of the two doctors were contradictory in the sense that in one of the findings, they had said cyhalothrin was detected and in another they said a carbamate had been detected.

“Carbamate is a highly toxic substance by nature of its molecules. But since no traces of a chemical were detected in the specimens, it therefore means that this was an incorrect observation. It is contradicting since the same doctor had said he did not detect any chemical,” he said.

He added: “When these two substances are detected, they need to be differentiated. However, at times a post-mortem analysis might not give you 100 per cent of what you want,” he said.

Dr Gachie further poked holes in the two reports, saying that in normal medical practice, when doing a forensic analysis, the pathologist should at least prepare a list of what he or she is expecting after observing the body.

SCRUTINISE REPORTS

He also said it was necessary for the three doctors to convene after the toxicology report had been produced to scrutinise it.

“Unfortunately, this did not happen. A pre-post-mortem conference between me, Dr Njue and Chief Government Pathologist Dr Johansen Oduor was necessary. Things would have been different,” he said.

Dr Gachie said Dr Salim Omar, who saw Mr Veevers' body after his death, can shed light on what might have caused the death.

“You know, we only interacted with the skeleton after the body had been exhumed about a year after burial. We never saw the liver and other body organs which could have helped us ascertain the cause of death,” he said.

Mr Veevers died on February 14, 2013 at his Nyali residence, where he was living with his second wife, Azra Parvenu Din, and his two daughters, Alexandra Azra Veevers and Helen Azra Veevers.

His two sons, Richard John and Philip Veevers, have accused their stepsisters and stepmother of conspiring to kill their father.